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Last post Author Topic: MS Project questions  (Read 5527 times)

kalos

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MS Project questions
« on: May 05, 2015, 03:11:33 AM »
hello

I am forced to use MS Project and I think it's a badly design program

Can you tell me please:

1) how do I make to Autoschedule new tasks for every document by default?
2) how do I make it start with today's date for new tasks, instead of Mon 12/10/09 that it enters now?

thanks!

IainB

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Re: MS Project questions
« Reply #1 on: May 05, 2015, 04:57:39 AM »
You apparently seem to know nothing about MS Project but are "forced to use" it and "think it's a badly design program"?
Amazing.    :o

I would suggest that you could do worse than study a book on MS Project, and practice using the tool as you study the book.
There's one I'd highly recommend that I think MS produced called MS Project Inside Out.
If you can't get hold of the PDF file for the current version (is yours MS Project 2015?) of this book, I might be able to dig up a link to something for you - probably the 2003 version.
I seem to recall that the book used to be shipped as documentation with the product install, so you might already have it on disk. It's worth checking that out.

From experience, once you have begun to master MS Project (it may take a while as it is quite complex and requires that you have at least a basic understanding of critical path method and analysis first), you will find it to be well-designed and an excellent critical path analysis and planning tool - arguably one of the best on the market, and is certainly ubiquitous, so you will very likely be able to re-use and further develop the knowledge you gain in this learning phase.

TaoPhoenix

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Re: MS Project questions
« Reply #2 on: May 05, 2015, 05:44:02 AM »

Somewhere in the middle ground, is something like what I ran into once.

"Oh look! Some client wanted a MS Project chart. Well, bang that out for me as soon as you can."

"Forced", sure. But not as part of the basic job description, but something that showed up on a one-time basis. Someone wanted something simple like a quick chart, and then that complexity gets rough.


Stoic Joker

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Re: MS Project questions
« Reply #3 on: May 05, 2015, 06:32:27 AM »
"Oh look! Some client wanted a MS Project chart. Well, bang that out for me as soon as you can."

"Forced", sure. But not as part of the basic job description, but something that showed up on a one-time basis.

Quite true, not everyone has the luxury of a rigidly defined job description. Some of us routinely get hit with whatever whoever can think up to want ... And are then expected to just shit the thing in an hour.

tomos

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Re: MS Project questions
« Reply #4 on: May 05, 2015, 06:43:45 AM »
Some of us routinely get hit with whatever whoever can think up to want ... And are then expected to just shit the thing in an hour.

 ;D
Tom

IainB

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Re: MS Project questions
« Reply #5 on: May 05, 2015, 08:39:04 AM »
Yes, that's all very well, but it's a cruel thing to do to an employee or subordinate. How else is @kalos expected to do whatever ad hoc job has been thrown at him? Because he's out of his depth, he's obliged to beg answers/help in this forum (and maybe others) about how to do basic stuff in MS Project - or at any rate, item 2 of his Q is basic, though I'm not sure that I understand item 1 of his Q.

I've seen this sort of thing so many times that it makes me grind my teeth in frustration. Theory helps one to understand it, but that doesn't make it any better. From what I have seen in this thread and others, I would suggest that @kalos is probably working in an organisation where the business processes are ad hoc. Every time one wants to do something, a new or modified existing business process is  used to do it - it would be chaotic, by definition. The theory describes this as being CMM Level 1 (Ad hoc/chaotic). (CMM here means Capability Maturity Model for business processes.)
So, if one is (say) in the business of making sausages, then the sausages are made in (say) a different way, or by a different person, or to a different recipe, each day.
CMM Level 2 = Repeatable (a lot of our our processes are re-used from day-to-day).
CMM Level 3 = Defined (we know what most of our process are, and they are defined and documented).
CMM Level 4 = Managed (we manage the operation of our main processes and run them according to their defined usage).
CMM Level 5 = Optimised (we constantly strive to improve and optimise the way our defined/managed processes operate).

Organisations have to start somewhere, and that is at CMM L1, then as they grow, they might move up to CMM L2, and even L3. In Westernised economies, rarely will you be lucky enough to see CMM L4, and CMM L5 organisations are even rarer.

I have every sympathy for anyone who is working in a CMM L1 organisation (where most of the business processes are ad hoc and work is chaotic). CMM L2 would be much the same. For employees, neither type of organisation can be a pleasant/happy place to work, and yet no-one there would quite understand why, or why staff turnover was so high. The explanation is given by the theory, that by definition they are chaotic (CMM L1), or barely rational (CMM L2) and such organisations cannot provide pleasant/happy/"safe" working environments.
You can't skip levels. There is only hope above CMM L2.

So I would suggest that the best way forward might be for @kalos to master MS Project to some reasonable level, whereupon he would be able to not only do the job thrown at him, but also, more importantly - as the de facto resident expert - to contribute more to the development of the organisation's processes - at least those relating to project management.
« Last Edit: May 05, 2015, 09:19:25 AM by IainB, Reason: Minor corrections. »

Renegade

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Re: MS Project questions
« Reply #6 on: May 05, 2015, 11:13:52 AM »
^ And that, ladies and gentlemen, is what an experienced project manager on steroids looks like. :P 8)
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DerekHal

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Re: MS Project questions
« Reply #7 on: May 05, 2015, 05:39:56 PM »
1)
Please explain what you want to autoschedule, and what result you expect by doing that.

2)
In MS Project 2007 in the Project-menu | Project Information window you can set the project's starting day (e.g. "today"). As long as you haven't linked your tasks neither changed MSP's default value regarding from where to schedule (default should be from the project's starting day), any new task should turn up with "today" as the default value in the task table.

In the Project Information Windows there is also a "today" date field. As far as i can understand, it's value is the system date value. If so, it's a dynamic field, and therefore changes every new date.



/Derek
« Last Edit: May 05, 2015, 05:58:16 PM by DerekHal »

IainB

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Re: MS Project questions
« Reply #8 on: May 06, 2015, 01:44:55 AM »
@DerekHal:
Good answer, but now you've gawn an' done it.
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"Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime." - Chinese proverb.

TaoPhoenix

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Re: MS Project questions
« Reply #9 on: May 06, 2015, 01:53:55 AM »
@DerekHal:
Good answer, but now you've gawn an' done it.
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"Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime." - Chinese proverb.

Ya gotta do both, Iain!

Police: "Why is this man dead, with a book next to him?"
Witness: "He starved while trying to learn how to fish. No one would give him dinner."


Stoic Joker

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Re: MS Project questions
« Reply #10 on: May 06, 2015, 06:50:56 AM »
^Nailed it! :Thmbsup:

IainB

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Re: MS Project questions
« Reply #11 on: May 06, 2015, 07:32:46 AM »
@TaoPhoenix: Heh, heh. Apposite and droll.  :Thmbsup:

DerekHal

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Re: MS Project questions
« Reply #12 on: May 06, 2015, 12:14:10 PM »
Sorry. I thought this thread was about helping Kalos with MS Project. :down:

TaoPhoenix

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Re: MS Project questions
« Reply #13 on: May 06, 2015, 01:52:21 PM »
Sorry. I thought this thread was about helping Kalos with MS Project. :down:

Yeah, our tone is wavering a little, but it's getting into a broader theme of "answering the question" and "next steps".

I posted my remarks because in my old job we'd never needed MS Project for anything, then one day, *exactly once*, it drifted up through management "Hey, we need a chart." And never used it again.

So it happens. I've been in Kalos' position a lot, so a big "take months to learn MS Project" kind of reply would really have upset me! By now y'all see he's dealing with a lot of stuff. So to keep getting multi month homework assignments would start to get discouraging!

So on *these kinds of questions* I was trying to suggest we need a double-barreled answer - something to get past the week, and then what could be done later now that the meeting-fire is put out?


IainB

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Re: MS Project questions
« Reply #14 on: May 06, 2015, 11:21:34 PM »
Sorry. I thought this thread was about helping Kalos with MS Project. :down:
_________________________

My apologies. I can quite see why you would say/think this at this point. You are arguably not entirely wrong in your approach so far, nor entirely right. The focus is, or was, on helping Kalos with his questions.

After years of lecturing, consulting and generally trying to maintain a politely helpful and positive approach to people's questions (including being a Help Desk second-tier technical support specialist and a volunteer on aardvark, and setting up and managing Service Desk operations), I eventually decided on four basic rules:
  • Rule 1: that there is no limit to our ignorance (including mine), and I should accept that;
  • Rule 2: to limit the contribution of my cognitive surplus to such people and their infinite ignorance/questions, by encouraging them to take more responsibility for seeking out/discovering their own answers (which is how I generally go about reducing my own level of ignorance).
  • Rule 3: that people generally seem to have little respect for and to have a limited capacity to internalise answers/knowledge which have come too easily to them, so generally avoid giving them any answers.
  • Rule 4: in any event, avoid "telling them the answer" or pushing my opinion forwards without substantiation in theory, experience and good practice (this takes work to communicate).

When I have strayed from these rules, I have usually regretted it.

Therefore, IF I decide to assist people at all, then - and even if I think that I know the answer already - I nowadays usually google it or DuckGo it, or check Wikipedia (say) or RTFM for them, and then send them the results or source links, with the suggestion that  they could probably get even more useful information if they hunted around a bit more themselves or (say) played about with a google (or other) search string.

So where I do decide to help people with their questions, my greatest contribution is by doing what I have generally found to be most effective - simply stick with making the effort to try to help people to help themselves - and I put quite a bit of work into that effort.

Having been responsible for recruiting, managing and coaching project managers, for the coaching I would usually take the approach above, and which I also took in this case.
I suppose I could have added a reference to: https://duckduckgo.c...S+Project+Inside+Out

The implications of this would probably be apparent in the context of (say) this discussion thread.
« Last Edit: May 06, 2015, 11:36:12 PM by IainB, Reason: Minor corrections. »

kalos

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Re: MS Project questions
« Reply #15 on: May 22, 2015, 09:42:09 AM »
guys, I have that MS Gantt chart....
and I specify a start date 18/05/2015
then I specify 1wk as duration
and it fills automatically 28/05/2015!
and I correct it manually to 22/05/2015
and it automatically makes the 1wk to 0.3wk!!
and whatever I correct, I cannot fix it!
isn't this a badly designed program?

IainB

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Re: MS Project questions
« Reply #16 on: May 22, 2015, 12:22:28 PM »
guys, I have that MS Gantt chart....
and I specify a start date 18/05/2015
then I specify 1wk as duration
and it fills automatically 28/05/2015!
and I correct it manually to 22/05/2015
and it automatically makes the 1wk to 0.3wk!!
and whatever I correct, I cannot fix it!
isn't this a badly designed program?
____________________________

It can be very frustrating when that sort of thing happens in MS Project.
I did a DuckGo search of "Problem - MS Project automatically resets a task duration" and came up with lots of potentially useful Q&As in forum discussions - e,g,, Problems with dates and duration time with project professional 2010 - Microsoft Community

Without wishing to labour the point, the investment of your time in a training course in the use of MSP, or (probably better) a simultaneous study of MS Project and the book MS Project Inside Out, could help to give you a clearer perspective on this sort of issue - including, for example, why whatever default settings - or (say) settings that you may have fixed -  for your resource availability is a constraint that MS Project will try to match.
If the match is infeasible - e.g., (say) the changed task duration cannot meet the fixed constraints as set - then MSP will readjust until it does meet them. I don't know, but that might be what happened in your case (above).

NB: Also check things like, for example:
  • (a) that you have made consistent use of units of any resource's time.
  • (b) whether your manual correction effectively changed the default unit of resource, or the default resources required. (Check all aspects/properties of the status of the resource before and after the change that you make, and before/after MSP makes its changes.)
  • (c) whether there are any peculiar Calendar constraints for the resources involved, for that time period.
  • (d) whether that task is on the critical path - depending on how you have set up the project, MSP may try to adjust things to stay within the critical path constraints according to the overall START and END points set for the project.

MS Project is arguably one of the most comprehensive and best-designed project planning tools for both CPA (Critical Path Analysis) and Network (PERT) analysis, and project costing that are currently available in the market.
It is actually a sophisticated database tool. I'm not sure, but I think that at one time in its product life it may have been based on Access.
The latest incarnation (I don't know which version you are using) would be the result of years of progressive and incremental improvement and redevelopment throughout its product life.

Many MSP users seem to be unaware that, for many years, MS project has also had a feature for corporate users, which enable one to have a central repository (server) for plans for large and complex programmes of work, where individual sub-project plans can be signed out and worked on in isolation by that sub-project's manager, and then checked back in to the central repository. The overall programme plan thus gives a fully-integrated picture and can use a common pool of resources which tie in to the HR resource utilisation (Calendar, holidays, available working hours, and timesheets) in the corporation. This enables any project manager to access a common resource pool. With a bit of thought, the beneficial implications of this for resource management and resource costing can be appreciated. For example, including how exceedingly useful that could be for resource management efficiency and time-saving in project planning - the ability to assign the available time (from workload and time-sheet analysis) for people and other project resources (e.g., including offices, computer systems, electronic displays or whiteboards), and for a standard cost for all resources to be fed back into any plan.

From experience, whenever I have seen MSP "do something that doesn't make sense", it has generally been because of my ignorance. For example, where I had not understood the rules that MSP was working under in such-and-such a case. I have never yet found MSP to be buggy, or badly-designed, though I personally found it required considerable effort to fully understand how it worked. With that understanding came a much better appreciation of what the tool could do. I moved from finding the the product to be frustratingly stubborn to having a great deal of respect for what it could do and for the design efforts put into it by Microsoft's MSP applications development team - not a bad effort.    :Thmbsup:

Innuendo

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Re: MS Project questions
« Reply #17 on: May 23, 2015, 09:56:33 AM »
I applaud Iain's tutoring skills, but I have to re-iterate what he has been stating since his first post in this thread. Microsoft Project is a beast that takes a lot of practice, training, and knowledge to tame. In Microsoft's stable of products, it's only rivaled by Excel as being a program with a simple interface that is a gateway into a world of complex commands, equations, and funky syntax that only be mastered by dedicating a lot of time to master the techniques that will make it bow to your will.

I have college coursework in IT project management and one of our tools was Microsoft Project 2013. We used the bejeezus out of it and I mastered everything we were taught, but I still left knowing there was a lot we had not had time to learn. I felt like we had barely scratched the surface of the power contained within the code.

So, yeah...questions about Microsoft Project posed in a cozy little software forum nestled in a corner of the internet is going to yield some simple, yet effective advice. However, if you are coming into using Microsoft Project cold with no prior learning or training, then a forum thread is not going to lead you to the land of milk & honey.

This endeavor is not something on the level of "Hey, I just bought a second monitor and I need to know how to set things so a different wallpaper is displayed on each one". That the OP states that Project is a badly designed program tells me that he has no prior experience with it or much knowledge regarding it.

Without formal training or at least a how-to-for-dummies book in your toolbox, a dance with Microsoft Project is going to only lead to death, destruction, the wringing of hands, the wailing of women, and the gnashing of teeth. (One or two of these things may not happen.)

Little known fact....the avatar Iain uses is really a picture of him. He's been trapped in that ugly sweater vest since 2008 as the result of a freak Microsoft Project accident. Don't let it happen to you. Respect the code.

dr_andus

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Re: MS Project questions
« Reply #18 on: May 23, 2015, 11:13:39 AM »
If the objective is to end up with a Gantt chart to stick into someone's PowerPoint presentation, there might be other (lot more user-friendly) options out there and the end user may never know (or need to know) that it wasn't produced in MS Project.

I used RationalPlan some time ago, which I found a lot simpler and easier to use than MS Project (though not for presentational purposes but for actual project planning).

It seems to have got a bit more expensive since I bought it, but the Linux version is free. And there might be other free sofware (possibly even PPT add-ons) that can create a nice-looking Gantt chart.

Ath

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Re: MS Project questions
« Reply #19 on: May 23, 2015, 11:47:02 AM »
but the Linux version is free.
So you have an implicit intention to expose kalos to Linux :'( that'll keep 'm busy for a while ;D ;D ;D

TaoPhoenix

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Re: MS Project questions
« Reply #20 on: May 23, 2015, 01:11:32 PM »
"If the objective is to end up with a Gantt chart to stick into someone's PowerPoint presentation, there might be other (lot more user-friendly) options out there and the end user may never know (or need to know) that it wasn't produced in MS Project.

I used RationalPlan some time ago, which I found a lot simpler and easier to use than MS Project (though not for presentational purposes but for actual project planning).

It seems to have got a bit more expensive since I bought it, but the Linux version is free. And there might be other free sofware (possibly even PPT add-ons) that can create a nice-looking Gantt chart."

I find this kind of advice interesting, based on the small similarities I once encountered similar to his situation, but it depends if you get an incoming file already in project format and if his bosses need some kind of "killer feature" only available in MS - P.


dr_andus

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Re: MS Project questions
« Reply #21 on: May 23, 2015, 05:12:08 PM »
I find this kind of advice interesting, based on the small similarities I once encountered similar to his situation, but it depends if you get an incoming file already in project format and if his bosses need some kind of "killer feature" only available in MS - P.

Sure, but aside the killer feature scenario, software like RationalPlan can import/export MS Project file format.

TaoPhoenix

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Re: MS Project questions
« Reply #22 on: May 23, 2015, 06:53:43 PM »
I find this kind of advice interesting, based on the small similarities I once encountered similar to his situation, but it depends if you get an incoming file already in project format and if his bosses need some kind of "killer feature" only available in MS - P.

Sure, but aside the killer feature scenario, software like RationalPlan can import/export MS Project file format.

Perfect crisp tip!

I wonder what that could have meant to me back in the day when I had my whatever-it-was assignment!

IainB

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Re: MS Project questions
« Reply #23 on: May 23, 2015, 09:08:42 PM »
Maybe we could consider whether it might be useful and worthwhile pooling our collective knowledge of computerised project management tools and training in same, and documenting it somehow in this site?
However, I'm not sure whether - in that way - expanding the scope of purpose for this site would necessarily be a good idea.

TaoPhoenix

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Re: MS Project questions
« Reply #24 on: May 23, 2015, 09:41:47 PM »
Maybe we could consider whether it might be useful and worthwhile pooling our collective knowledge of computerised project management tools and training in same, and documenting it somehow in this site?
However, I'm not sure whether - in that way - expanding the scope of purpose for this site would necessarily be a good idea.

I don't know either. That sounds like a ... project!
Sometimes the quick tips address specific little needs. You seem to be worried about scope creep on those, but I'm also not sure where the middle grounds are between "too many little disjointed tips" and "let's make a 50 page manual".